A Musical Sleuth Revives Works by a Lost 19th-Century Composer
After-party: hanging with Hanani (center) at Close Encounters With Music.
Just when you think you’ve heard it all—the entire classical music canon—Close Encounters With Music’s artistic director Yehuda Hanani pulls another rabbit out of a hat. The trick this time is the re-discovery of a heretofore virtually forgotten 19th-century composer, Eduard Franck, a student and colleague of Felix Mendelssohn.
“The 200th Anniversary of Mendelssohn’s birth prompts a re-evaluation of his inner circle,” says Hanani. Saturday night’s concert, Franck’s American premier, is the first of two Franck/Mendelssohn & Company evenings scheduled for this season by Hanani’s chamber music organization. Joining Hanani, a cellist, onstage will be violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi and Yehnonatan Berick; pianist James Tocco; and the Avalon String Quartet.
Eduard Franck’s background is similar to Mendelssohn’s. Born in 1817 to a privileged banking family in Breslau, he grew up surrounded by the luminaries of the age—Heine, Humboldt, the Mendelssohns, Wagner. An accomplished pianist, prolific composer and renowned teacher, Franck later joined a professional circle that included Mendelssohn, the Schumanns and Chopin. Moritz Moszkowski, the Romantic pianist and composer, also born in Breslau (1854-1925), studied piano with Franck in Berlin.
“Along with my colleague James Tocco, I am honored to rectify an unfortunate historical omission,” says Hanani, who was introduced to first editions of Franck’s chamber music scores by the composer’s descendants in Germany. “Whether because he published his works late in life, or because of his innate reticence, Franck’s has been a neglected voice.”
As always at Close Encounters concerts, this Saturday evening music will be mixed with Hanani’s erudition: “Franck’s elegantly-crafted music deepens our understanding of the Zeitgeist that produced the German Romantic composers leading to Brahms and Strauss. His work has a glimmer of the chromaticism that was to follow.” Then following the performance, the audience will storm the stage, joining the musicians in a glass of wine.
“The idea,” Hanani says, “is to recreate the intimate atmosphere of the 19th-century salon.”
Close Encounters with Music
Celebrating Mendelssohn and Discovering Eduard Franck
Saturday, February 21; 6 p.m.
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
14 Castle Street, Great Barrington
Tickets: $35; 518.528.0100